The Gospel text for this Sunday [Luke 4:16-30] has Jesus in his hometown, and he opens a scroll and reads aloud from it. It is sometimes forgotten that this was an ancient practice. The Old Testament text from Nehemiah has some interesting aspects regarding this as well.
A scroll containing the book of Isaiah was found as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is about 24 feet long and is about 1000 years older than the previous manuscripts that had been discovered. It was certainly a significant discovery, and it was good to know that it was virtually identical with the other manuscripts that we already had.
With all that in mind, have you ever considered the importance of a book? It is most certainly true that all books have some information, but the way in which a modern book is laid out, that certainly makes it easier to get to other parts of the book than unrolling and rolling a huge scroll.
This form of a book, a book with pages, has the fancy name of ‘codex’, and the codex is a consistent characteristic of the early Christian Church. And I do not see this simply as a need to be ‘modern’.
The New Testament is a highly interconnected work, one where the four gospel accounts relate to one another, one where the Gospel according to Luke relates to the Acts of the Apostles, one where the four gospel accounts relate to the first four epistles, and one where the book of Revelation relates to everything else.
With that in mind, why not have a book with pages? The only downside to that would be the attitude that sometimes comes with comparison, that of an arrogance to decide which one is better or more accurate or _______(fill in the blank).
It is interesting that the early Christians also had a solution for that situation. Every time Jesus (and related words) would be mentioned, they would be done in a very special form. For those who understand some Latin (and, if you understand some English, you ALREADY understand some Latin!), these are called ‘nomina sacra’.
When we walk through the Bible, we are treading on holy ground. We have been blessed with the ability to ‘skip around’. Or we may wish simply to ‘rest’ a while in one place. It is such a gift. Jesus is such a gift.
The Gospel text for this Sunday is the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine [John 2:1-11]. But, because that text is within the Gospel according to John, it is not always that easy to describe.
Certainly, much more could be written. And, certainly, much more HAS been written.
Since I have recently been at the Fort Wayne seminary for their annual symposia, and since that city is currently in a different time zone than much of the Midwest, I have experienced what it is like to have a different time frame. And that is similar to the Gospel according to John; it uses the Roman way of telling time instead of the ‘Old Testament way’ (for more detail about this, see The Lutheran Study Bible, page 1567).
The Romans started counting the hours of the day earlier than the Jews. And that difference actually fits with the ‘time frame’ of this gospel account. Very early within this account you hear some wonderful confessions of faith. And the ‘hour’ that Jesus talks about for a long time within this account comes to him BEFORE he is put on the cross. And it is interesting that the hour comes to him when Jesus is told that some Greeks have come to Jerusalem to worship, and they say, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus (John 12:21).’ That is actually when Jesus says that his soul is troubled (12:27). In the Garden of Gethsemane, and even on the cross, Jesus seems not to be having too much trouble. (On the cross he says, ‘I thirst’, but even the text says THAT was done to fulfill scripture; 19:28).
With that in mind, much already has been written about the way in which this miracle text begins: ‘On the third day… (John 2:1a).’ Most connections have been made to something in the Old Testament, and that should be expected.
Since there are three ‘next day’s in the previous chapter (vs. 29, 35, 43), some have seen a connection to the six days of creation (since, of course, three plus three is six; see The Lutheran Study Bible, p. 1778). I appreciate that connection, especially since there is, within the first creation account, a division between the first three days and the last three. (If you are interested in more specifics, the first three ‘set the stage’ in a way, and the second three fill that stage. There is also a way to see this layout as also pointing to the structure of the entire book of Genesis, with its two divisions being 1:1-11:26 and 11:27-50:26; in this way, God sets the stage with his creation and then fills that stage with his story of redemption—at least the very beginnings of that redemption story.)
I would much rather see within the mention of the ‘third day’ a connection to Jesus’ resurrection—since it also was on the third day that he came back to life. In the same way that Jesus hides the miracle of turning water into wine, he also has hidden the miracle of his resurrection from the eyes of many.
Just imagine how easy it would be for Jesus to show many more people that yes, he really did rise from the dead. And as the servants of the wedding feast knew that the water had turned to wine, Jesus’ servants today know his current whereabouts.
The Gospel text for this Sunday, the first Sunday after the Epiphany, always deals with the baptism of our Lord. This year the focus is on the Gospel according to Luke, and that perspective is significantly different from the others.
I think it is safe to say that the baptism of Jesus is important in all four accounts of Jesus’ baptism. In the Gospel according to John, the baptism of Jesus is barely mentioned, but it is the same with many other things of Jesus in that account. I think it is significant that the WITNESS of John is emphasized in that account: ‘And John bore witness: I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit [John 1:32-33].”’ Many important things are clearly emphasized in the three similar accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and these important things are emphasized in a slightly different way in the Gospel according to John.
In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus’ baptism is of course mentioned, but this is the only account where the baptism of others is prominent and mentioned right before the baptism of Jesus. And it is not just a few people who are being baptized. It is interesting how the writer relates the event.
‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased [Luke 3:21-22].”’
Did you catch the ‘all’? Do you remember where you heard that recently? The angel said to the shepherds, ‘…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people [Luke 2:10b].’ Simeon blessed God and said, ‘…my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples…[Luke 2:30-31].’
It is nice that this gospel writer gently leads us away from asking historical questions about Jesus to some practical issues about this so-called ‘Savior’. Jesus did something significant that was connected to ALL people. That includes you.
So, it sounds to me like we again see Jesus in the text to be like the obedient ox. He is doing his job; he is leading the way. All the people were baptized; Jesus was baptized; something special happens to him…. And I hope you would want to know how that story ends.
This is an unusual Sunday. This year Epiphany falls on a Sunday, and so the Gospel text for this Sunday is the text from Matthew 2[:1-12]. I could write for a long time regarding the structure of the Gospel according to Matthew, but that would be a bit distracting from the text.
The text itself is a bit distracting when it brings up the subject of ‘magi’. I think that the ESV has a good translation when the writer brings up the word. Right before it, the text says, ‘behold’; in other words, ‘pay attention’, ‘something important is happening here’, ‘something very different is happening here’.
It took me a while to get used to the possible definition of ‘magi’ as ‘magician’. It is not too hard phonetically—just one more syllable is added. But it constitutes a different subsection in the dictionary. Here is the definition of magi as it is used in this gospel account: ‘a wise man and priest, who was expert in astrology, interpretation of dreams and various other occult arts [BDAG, p. 608].’
In that definition, the word ‘occult’ may be the hardest word to accept. At first it seemed a bit difficult for me to see someone who is an expert in the occult arts coming to Jesus and worshiping him. But people change, and some people have changed in some very significant ways.
Looking at the occurrences of the Greek word ‘worship’ within this gospel account are also a good reminder of the wide range of people that ended up coming to Jesus and worshiping him. After the magi, the next one is a leper (8:2). Then there is a ruler of the synagogue (9:18), and then his disciples worship him—finally (14:33)! Then a Canaanite woman worships him (15:25), and then the mother of the sons of Zebedee does the same (20:20). Then, after Jesus’ resurrection, the women first worship him (28:9), and then his disciples (28:17). It seems like these occurrences were deliberately laid out in pairs.
It is certainly good to see a wide variety of people in the text worshiping Jesus. That happens every Sunday; it is just that we do not realize it.